“Zionists” to blame for apartheid too?

Submitted by Anon on 2 March, 2006 - 6:10

In February the Guardian published a lengthy two part feature comparing Israel to Apartheid South Africa, written by the "award winning" Middle East correspondent Chris McGreal.

The false and unfounded portrayal of Israel as an “apartheid state” is certainly not a new phenomenon, but one that has been revived and promoted as part of a deliberate campaign and strategy to demonise and delegitimise Israel… Those who urge a worldwide boycott of Israel use this comparison in order to rally the same forces that used the international divestment sanction as a major factor in bringing the white supremacy regime in South Africa to an end.

While Israel must be accountable for her transgressions, comparing Israel to South Africa and labelling all Zionists as racist is an oversimplification of the truth and is extremely unconstructive — it merely serves as a convenient vehicle for those who are deeply hostile to the idea of Israel.

The second part of Chris McGreal’s article goes beyond de-legitimising Israel, singling out South African Jews as supporters and beneficiaries of the apartheid regime: “…for years the bulk of South Africa's Jews not only failed to challenge the apartheid system but benefited and thrived under its protection…” Although he acknowledges that Jews featured prominently in the liberation movements, the emphasis of his article implies a tacit support for the apartheid regime amongst the Jewish community…

It is true that during apartheid many Jewish South Africans chose to focus mainly on Jewish issues and remained distant from the struggle until relatively late. However at the same time they were also “over represented” in the struggle against the apartheid regime…

Wikipedia highlights that when 156 political leaders were arrested on December 5, 1956, more than half of the whites arrested were Jewish and were charged with high treason. All of the whites initially charged in the 1963 Rivonia Trial were Jewish…

McGreal also criticises the South African Board of Deputies for failing to stand up against apartheid, arguing their neutral position was taken so as not to endanger the Jewish Community. He failed to mention the fact that South Africa's National Congress of the Jewish Board of Deputies passed a resolution urging “all concerned [people] and, in particular, members of our community to cooperate in securing the immediate amelioration and ultimate removal of all unjust discriminatory laws and practices based on race, creed, or colour."

Many anti-Zionists like McGreal make a point of separating Judaism from Zionism in order to avoid accusations of anti-Semitism. I agree that it is perfectly possible to be an anti-Zionist without being anti-Semitic; however McGreal illustrates how easy it is to cross this line. Although I do not agree with comparisons made between Israel and South Africa, such comparisons are not anti-Semitic. What confuses me is why McGreal has dragged the South African Jewish community into the debate...

I can only conclude that McGreal’s article is both ideologically selective and an insult to the memories of those Jews who dedicated and risked their lives to campaigning against the apartheid. He irresponsibly used examples from the South African Jewish community to promote his own political views of Israel when in reality the two are not connected in any way. Consequently I find his article an attack against Jews as well as an attack against Israel.

Nancy Tearbaum (abridged from the Engage website)

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